Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

by Dee Brown

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Summary and Analysis Chapter 7: “The Only Good Indian Is a Dead Indian”

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 538

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General Winfield Scott Hancock: Army general who ordered destruction of Indian camps.

Tall Bull: Southern Cheyenne chief and leader of the Dog Soldiers who was killed in battle with Army soldiers.

General Philip Sheridan: Army general with command of Kansas forts who ordered Custer to destroy hostile Indian tribes.

General George Custer: An Army general who fought many campaigns against Plains Indians before dying at Battle of Little Bighorn.

In the fall of 1866, the Southern Cheyenne Dog Soldiers go to Kansas to hunt buffalo. These soldiers had previously fought with Red Cloud against the Army, and they are joined up with several bands of Cheyennes and Arapahos. After learning of this, the Army attempts to convince the Indian chiefs in Kansas to sign the previous year’s treaty and join Black Kettle’s people south of the Arkansas. The chiefs refuse, and Roman Nose organizes many warriors to make attacks on a stagecoach line running through the area. But when that plan is foiled by a succession of early snowstorms, the Dog Soldiers make camp for the winter. In the spring of 1867, General Hancock warns the Indians that whites are coming onto their land. An impromptu council of the Army and the Dog Soldiers is formed, and when the Indians leave, an angry Hancock burns the Indians’ camp. The Dog Soldiers respond by making attacks on whites across the plains. A peace council arranged at Medicine Lodge Creek in early October 1867 results in the Cheyennes, Kiowas, Comanches, and Arapahos signing a treaty under which they would go to a reservation south of the Arkansas River. Roman Nose does not sign this treaty.

In mid-September 1868, Roman Nose and his Cheyennes attack the Army at the Arikaree fork of the Republican River. Roman Nose dies in the attack. General Sheridan and General Custer then respond by attacking Black Kettle’s village on the Washita River. In late December at Fort Cobb, Sheridan receives the survivors of Black Kettle’s band with contempt, and though the Dog Soldiers continue their attacks in the spring and summer of 1869, their numbers are whittled down by the Army, and the surviving group of Tall Bull and roughly 20 others die in a July battle in a ravine at Summit Springs.

The title of this chapter, “The Only Good Indian is a Dead Indian,” points out General Sheridan’s thirst for Indian blood and foreshadows his contempt for the Indians who will surrender to him near the chapter’s close. The introduction of General Hancock begins what was a deeply personal confrontation between him and Roman Nose. Hancock’s warning that whites will sweep over the Indians’ land will, of course, come true, but an undeterred Roman Nose responded to the provocation by predicting that he would slaughter Hancock. The story of Custer’s troops destroying Black Kettle’s band, seen in the light of Chief Wynkoop’s protest against Black Kettle’s death, reminds readers of Wyknoop’s earlier remark that he had felt himself inferior to the Cheyennes he met in 1864. As the chapter ends, it is hard not to wonder if Brown is asking the readers to consider whether or not Wynkoop’s perceived inferiority was an accurate sentiment.

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